Why does O'Conner use for violence in her stories (like "A Good Man is Hard to Find") to get the attention of both readers & characters?

Expert Answers
mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

O'Connor is an Old Testament "hell, fire, and brimstone" comic writer who uses grotesques to violently and comically expose her luke-warm Christian characters.

In "A Good Man is Hard to Find," the Misfit's accomplice takes the family into the woods and shoots them.  The grandmother tries to save herself by pleading to the Misfit:

"You've got good blood!  I know you wouldn't shoot a lady!  I know you come from nice people!  Pray!  Jesus, you ought not to shoot a lady.  I'll give you all the money I've got!"

The Misfit responds:

"Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead and He shouldn't have done it.  He shown everything off balance.  If He did what He said, then it's nothing for you to do but thow away everything and follow Him, and if He didn't, then it's nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can--by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him.  No pleasure but meanness."

Just before it is her turn to be shot, the grandmother says:

"Why you're one of my babies. You're one of my own children!"  She touches the Misfit on the shoulder, and he springs back "as if a snake had bitten him and [shoots] her three times through the chest."

The Misfit tells his accomplice to throw the grandmother into the woods with the others, adding:

"She would have bee a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life."

O'Connor uses the Misfit's violence and grotesqueness as a means of showing the grandmother's self-righteousness and hypocrisy.  Violence is used as a leveling tool to expose the grandmother's lack of spirituality.  To her, Christ is not a matter of life and death.

One critic said:

"...[O'Connor's] criminals...are Evil and are fighting a religious battle within themselves--their belief or disbelief in Christ is to them a matter of life and death."

O'Connor provides her grotesque characters, like the Misfit, higher spiritual ground at the expense of social moral good because she cares more about their perfervid spirituality (their souls) more than their nature (that they are evil).  "God, like the Misfit, is a force that can obliterate anguish, that can destroy all the 'grandmothers' of the world."  Violence, or the gun to the head, is a perfervid reminder that salvation is a matter of life and death.

Read the study guide:
A Good Man Is Hard to Find

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question